Power Rankings: Preseason

By Adam Ruffner 

Rank Team 2016 Record Trend Comment



14-0 - Chest-pounding world crushers that they were a season ago—their average margin of victory in 2016 was nearly 10 goals per game—Dallas enters the new season surrounded by tougher competition in the South Division and with an enlarged target on their backs as the undefeated, reigning champs. The losses of Beau Kittredge and Cassidy Rasmussen were sustainable for the team given the Roughnecks' robust free agency additions of Jay Froude (formerly on MAD), Abe Coffin (MAD), and Joel Clutton (ATX). But now with the news of Kurt Gibson's pectoral injury that will sideline him for months, Dallas is more vulnerable than ever for their first defeat. That being said, they are bringing back 20 returners from last year's championship roster that ranked number one in offense and defense, and their top lineups featuring the likes of Jimmy Mickle, Dylan Freechild, and Matt Jackson will remain the most formidable in the league on either side of the disc.



11-3 +1 The FlameThrowers were the kings of April in 2016, going 5-0 on the month while averaging nearly 27 goals per game. But despite their hot start, San Francisco went just 6-4 over the remainder of the season including the playoffs. The FlameThrowers have now averaged 10 wins per season in their first three years, but have yet to win a playoff game, joining Chicago as the only AUDL franchises with three postseason appearances without claiming a victory. Kittredge, Rasmussen, and their numerous pro championships are here to galvanize a roster that clearly possesses the talent to win a title, but is still striving to reach its potential. When (not if) their offense establishes consistency and cracks the top 10 in the league's scoring—they finished just 12th overall last season—this team will be scary.



14-0 -1 The Radicals are still feeling the shock that came from their seven-goal-lead-turned-stunning-upset-at-home loss in last year's semifinal versus the Cascades, but the new season is enticing. Sure, their AUDL record 31-game home winning streak is gone, but so is the pressure to keep it intact. Just ask the 2016 Golden State Warriors or Icarus: Staying close to perfection can be debilitating and cost you at inopportune times. The Radicals are entering 2017 with their youngest (and perhaps fastest) roster to date, with the bulk of their talented core still playing in their primes. The spry legs and rejuvenated focus may prove to be the difference in the playoffs. The 26 goals Seattle put up on the Radicals to end last season tied for the most allowed in Madison franchise history, and continued Madison's perennial struggle with late season fatigue.



9-5 +3 Raleigh's top line may be a half step below the three teams that precede them on this list, but the Flyers possess the best depth in the AUDL after their haul of valuable additions during the offseason. The 11 players they gained from the now-defunct Charlotte squad are all capable of providing immediate impact on the field, especially for Raleigh's defense, which was already a top-10 outfit last season. The offense gains two of the most dangerous cutters in the business with Jonathan Helton and Shane Sisco, who will join an already imposing mix of throwers and receivers. But in order for Raleigh to reach their championship-level potential, their scoring production will need to stabilize. During a five-game midseason winning streak in 2016 the team averaged nearly 27 goals per contest, then promptly fell down a hole in their final three games, going 0-3 while averaging just 19 per game, including a South Division record-low 12 in their regular season finale. Remember: The Flyers finished as the number three offense in 2015, and look poised to reach that level again with a little added focus.



12-2 -1 With the Radicals' run now finished, the Rush hold claim to the longest active home winning streak at 17 games and counting. Toronto also maintains a 26-game streak of scoring 20+ goals per game, an AUDL record. There's a host of other nuggets that speak to this team's golden legacy, but like Madison, Toronto is entering a new era with a focus on developing their younger talent. It began last season, especially on defense, as the not-old-but-older guard of stalwart defenders Andrew Carroll, Remi Ojo, and Geoff Powell saw their production numbers eclipsed by budding playmakers Jacky Hau and JJ Edwards. A similar evolution could take place on offense this season, with the continuing emergence of Bretton Tan, Nathan Hirst, and the already-stellar Isaiah Masek-Kelly filling out their roles.



10-4 - While the loss of a few top players from last season—notably Helton, Nicky Spiva, and Tom Doi, who were clutch performers for the team in 2016—will be felt in the early going, the Breeze are only looking up coming off their best season in franchise history. DC hit its stride towards the end of the regular season, winning five straight games before an overtime loss to the Rush ended their season two goals shy of the final four. The offense, led by Jeff Wodatch, Markham Shofner, and Jonathan Neeley, were consistent-to-great, and DC's defense was the best in the league at generating takeaways, averaging 18 per game. The return of Nate Castine and some athletic offseason additions should lead to even more blocks and more points in transition.



7-7 +2 One of the dark horses of the 2017 season, New York has created a lineup that, on paper, could absolutely make a title game with players like Ryan Drost, Jeff Babbitt, and Ben Jagt. What stands between them and their ceiling are just, oh, the winningest team in the history of the league (Toronto), a resurgent powerhouse (DC), and a host of steadfast competitors in the improved East Division. But the Empire are determined that this is their season, regardless of the fact that all seven of their losses last year came at the hands of their two biggest rivals. The point of emphasis for New York should be possession, as they have struggled at times with turning the disc. If the Empire don't beat themselves with careless turnovers, they will be a reckoning force in their division and beyond.



5-9 +10 Similar to the Empire, the Cannons have incredibly high potential and could turn a lot of heads with their explosiveness. They spent the offseason signing big athletes to make their presence known in the South after missing out on the playoffs in 2016, and redeveloped their team identity from a stat-focused glory show to a team committed to one goal—winning a title. There is not a offensive threat quite like the combo of Cole Sullivan and Mischa Freystaetter, and now with defenders Jakeem Polk, Jeremy Langdon, and Chris LaRocque on the roster, the Cannons may finally have a defense with the ability complement their potent offense. Jacksonville expects to compete for the first place spot in the South, but that can't happen until they prove, definitively, that they can slow opponents down.



9-5 +4 Minnesota didn't get as much attention for their offseason additions as other teams, but what they lacked in big name signings they more than made up for in need-based fits. The team struggled with turnovers last season as a result of lacking depth at the handler position, finishing 21st overall, the lowest of any playoff team. But with throwers Josh Klane and Ryan Osgar (among others) joining the team, the Wind Chill have the arms to match their downfield talent. And with fewer turnovers to mitigate, Minnesota's underrated defensive unit will gain a renewed importance to the team's success. They quietly finished third in the league last season in takeaways (17.2 per game). That squad will only improve with Jay Drescher, team rookie Charlie McCutcheon, and a fully healthy James Kittlesen on board for 2017.



10-4 - How much does one player matter to its team? That question will likely be answered best by the Thunderbirds, who return MVP-hopeful Tyler Degirolamo to the field after missing the entirety of last season. When healthy, Degirolamo is the most dangerous all-around offensive player in the league, and he transforms Pittsburgh into an elite offensive juggernaut capable of giving fits to any defense, including Madison's vaunted unit; with him, the team averaged a league-best 29.3 goals per game in 2015; without him, the Thunderbirds failed to score 20 goals in all three appearances (0-3) against the Radicals in 2016.



7-7 - Led by last season's MVP Dylan Tunnell, Atlanta will once again be in the thick of the playoff picture in the South. Atlanta doesn't do any one thing particularly well—they ranked 15th in scoring and 16th in defense in 2016—but what they lack in specialized talent they make up for in team chemistry and timely playmaking; the Hustle went 4-2 last season in games decided by two goals or fewer. Paul Lally's signing went under the radar, but he is a perfect multi-toll player for their offensive system, and will slot in immediately with the productive Smith-Taylor-Gainer-Vickroy quartet of cutters.



9-5 -7 The 2016 runner-up Cascades took some hits during the offseason with a massive shift in their roster. Their two top performers on offense from 2016—Mark Burton and Donnie Clark—remain, but the rest of the O-line is in flux as the team strives to build a new identity. That transition is especially difficult for this Seattle team, given that they were dangerous because of their throwing and disc possession skills, finishing with the second fewest turnovers last year; they are not likely to replicate those numbers given the changes to their roster.



7-7 -1 Austin's offense was so potent last year in their inaugural season that it made sense they were a bit trigger-happy with the disc, constantly attacking the field with their lefty lineup of death. But the aggressiveness made them the number six scoring team in the league also led to the ninth most turnovers. If not for the presence of five Dallas matchups in their schedule, and Austin's carelessness with the disc would have been the biggest reason why the team missed the playoffs. Now with a year of experience and some settled nerves, don't be surprised to see the Sol a couple spots higher in the coming weeks.



9-5 -6 The Aviators have had to abandon their "Department of Defense" team motto with the departure of four of their top defenders from last season. The encouraging reality is that this team still possesses a lot of talent, especially on the offensive side of the disc. Mark Elbogen did a very convincing Degirolamo impersonation over the latter half of the regular season, reeling in dozens of goals while also bombing hammers from anywhere on the field, giving the Aviators' offense seemingly limitless range. If Tom Doi gets up to speed with the O-line quickly, Los Angeles could have the most dangerous offense in the division.



6-8 -1 It's starting to feel a bit like déjà vu all over again with this Riptide team. Every season, their on-paper roster—complete with Morgan Hibbert, Gagan Chatha, Darren Wu, and Kevin Underhill to just name a few—has the talent to take the final playoff spot in the West, if not compete for one of the higher seeds. See their back-to-back wins against San Francisco and Seattle in the middle of last year. And yet every season, there is one hurdle that the team just cannot clear to reach their first postseason: Stopping the opposition from scoring. They had just one game in 2016 where they allowed fewer than 20 goals in a game.



2-12 +8 It's the second time in three seasons the Growlers went out and brought in a bunch outside talent, but the team is still looking for its first playoff appearance. 2016 was a lost season for San Diego, as they weathered a series of injuries and a handful of close losses as a result; they had the second worst win total last year, but were just 1-7 in games decided by four goals or fewer. Those results will change with the presence of goal scoring phenom Sean Ham, who has 97 goals in just two seasons, along with a beefed up defense thanks to their ex-Aviators additions.



8-6 -2 The AlleyCats were the only team to have a top 10 offense and not make the playoffs last season, finishing with nine games where they scored 25 or more goals; they were 7-2 in those contests. It speaks to how consistently great the Indianapolis O-line is, but also how much responsibility is on their shoulders for the team to succeed. And with almost the exact same roster—and exact same strengths and weaknesses—it's hard to see the AlleyCats moving much from their current position in the Midwest given the improvements on the Minnesota and Pittsburgh rosters.



7-7 -2 Much like Indy, Ottawa remains a thoroughly productive offensive team that is overall mired in mediocrity. Any lineup featuring Derek Alexander, Karl Loiseau, Mike Lee, and the newly added David Hochhalter will score some goals, and their defense finished 10th overall last year in takeaways. But far too often the D-line got ahead of itself and squandered potential break opportunities, leading to long points and ballooning scores for the opposition as games progressed; every team outside of Philly scored 20+ goals on the Outlaws in 2016.



6-8 - The Royal are bringing on 13 new members for the 2017 season after largely keeping the same core through their first three seasons. Gone are local legends Yoland Cabot and Jean-Levy Champagne, and in their place are imported talents like Christian Foster, Ben Katz, and others. Kevin Quinlan showed the benefit free agents can have in Montreal after his Second Team All-AUDL performance from a season ago, so the Royal can feel confident in their team direction. But this lineup still contains too many questions to move into the playoff discussion in the East for now.



0-14 +6 Speaking of overhauls, the Phoenix finally look ready to rise after going just 1-27 over the past two seasons. They signed Team USA veteran and former Breeze standout Nicky Spiva as a gravitational talent to attract other players, and it worked: Marques Brownlee, Matt Esser, Trey Katzenbach, and Sean Mott will undoubtedly make this team better in 2017. Defensively, they now have the personnel to make matchups difficult for their opponents. The offense's future is a little more uncertain, as it is unclear who will handle the majority of the handling reps.



4-10 - The Wildfire have watched their win totals steadily drop from 14 in 2013 to just four last season. The defense has remained elite throughout—they allowed just 20.3 goals per game in 2016, good for fifth best in the AUDL—and looks to still be the team's foundation heading into the new year. But the Chicago offense has gone through numerous permutations and roster shakeups over the years, resulting in a franchise-low 18.1 goals per game average last year. Newcomer Pawel Janas will help elevate that number, but the question is by how much.



5-9 -5 This is probably a bit low for a franchise as resilient as the Spiders, but they face an uphill climb after losing arguably their two top players from last season. Chuck Cao, Steven Chang, and Justin Norden are three of the most steady handlers to have leading an offense, while Jackson Stearns and Kelly Van Arsdale demonstrated they can handle increased workloads on offense. Evan Boucher is also here and has always been a factor on the field throughout his career. The problem comes with their schedule and facing San Francisco four times.



4-10 +1 The Mechanix showed a lot of fight last season, particularly on defense where they were disruptive, earning the sixth most blocks in the league. 2017 looks like another step in the right direction for the franchise as they continue to find the right balance of youthful energy and veteran know how.



3-11 -2 Jesse Shofner joining the NightWatch roster is a thrill, and her tenacious give-and-go offense will provide a complementary skill set for handlers Tyler Conger and Blake Waldron to work with in finding targets like Tom Radcliffe, Patrick Lindsey, and Corey Hardesty. The return of Matt Gallin to the defensive unit after a year away will help, but this team lacks the depth of defenders necessary to slow down the talent they'll be facing this season in the South. The offense will surprise teams, but unless their defense has made marked improvements since last season, it's hard to picture Nashville succeeding with their brutal gauntlet of a schedule.

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